Finding Jobs Overseas on the Spot
Working in an Eco-Lodge and Guiding
Tours in Costa Rica
Costa Rica sometimes offer part-time jobs.
heard someone shouting my name across the river. I wiped
my soil-covered hands on my overalls and wandered over to
the river to peer through the trees at whoever was shouting
to me. It was one of the local lads who worked at the lodge
up the road. He tethered his horse to a tree and wobbled
over the plank we used as a bridge, waving a small piece
of paper in his hand.
“COME QUICKLY PLEASE. TONIO HAS
LEFT, WE HAVE AN UNEXPECTED ARRIVAL OF AMERICAN TOURISTS
AND YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON IN THE VILLAGE WHO SPEAKS ENGLISH
AND SPANISH NOW. CAN YOU HELP?”
This was the beginning of my job as
a bilingual receptionist and tour guide.
I had gone to a tiny village in Guanacaste
in Costa Rica in order to co-manage an organic farm with
my partner. It was part of a WWOOFing venture
where we were provided with everything we needed. However,
after a few months, our money was running out, so the offer
of a part-time job at the local eco-lodge was a blessing.
This is a great example of how your
knowledge of other languages and being in situ can sometimes
find you the dream job that you might never have found in
over a year of trawling every Internet job website. This
is a guide to finding a job without the help of the Internet.
When packing up and leaving the comforts
of home for a new and unknown destination, it can be very
tempting to try and set up a job before leaving in order
to feel more secure. This is a great method to begin your
working life in another country. Many websites will help
you do this, and when applying for short-term work abroad,
you may often be offered a job without even so much as an
However, if the travel bug has hit
but you have been unable to find a job before leaving, or
perhaps you are already in the country and have decided
to start looking for work in order to increase your funds,
or maybe you are already working somewhere but are not entirely
happy with the situation, the chances are, if you are in
a developing country, you won’t be able to just jump
onto the Internet and find available jobs in the local area.
It’s time to go and sell yourself offline.
The first thing to do is identify where
you might be able to work. In my case, there was no other
option but the eco-lodge up the road as it was the only
paying establishment within miles of anywhere. However,
not every location is as cut off as that particular village!
There will likely be a number of hotels, lodges, hostels,
and tour guiding companies in areas where ecotourism and
other modes of travel flourish.
Having identified potential places
of work, visit each place and get yourself known (not as
a binge-drinking, loud mouthed foreigner, but as a friendly
traveler living in the area)! Try and get to know the owners
as well as other staff and demonstrate any language skills
you might have, dropping hints about other experience you
may have already had in the business. This will often work
wonders for you in terms of finding a job, rather than walking
into each place with a copy of your resume and asking for
a job outright, getting to know the locals will win over
their trust and respect.
If no job offers materialize right
away, now is the time to let them know you are looking for
work and would be interested in working for them. Just knowing
your face might be enough to convince them to give you a
try. Small, local communities tend to be slightly more guarded
with unknown visitors, which is why this direct method can
be much more successful.
Speaking the language of the country
you are in as well as fluent English should stand you in
good stead in any place in the world frequented by tourists,
no matter how small. And if you intend to spend any amount
of time living and working in one place, trying to learn
the language is something to consider.
I was offered the part-time position
of bilingual receptionist at the eco-lodge but, over time,
I was trained as a tour guide and accompanied a Spanish-speaking
guide on 8-hour horseback tours through the Costa Rican
rainforest. I served as the guide’s translator for
any English-speaking tourists. Eventually, I was taking
groups out on my own. The experience gained ultimately opened
up whole new career opportunities in different parts of
the world as an eco-tour guide.
The idea of going somewhere new and
unknown is both terrifying and exhilarating. But no matter
how cold, hot, exotic, bizarre a place, human nature is
the same and everybody responds positively to the same things.
If you go with the right attitude and can demonstrate this
to local people, not only will your experience have more
depth but opportunities will open themselves up for you
that you might never have imagined possible.
You will never be guaranteed to find
work, so it’s important to have a back-up plan. If
you are flexible, try several different villages, towns,
or even regions. Talk to other travelers about where they
have worked during their respective visits and ask for specific
details about the best way to obtain work in the same place.
But most important of all, talk to the local people—word
of mouth is still the principle method of advertising in
many areas of the world, and sticking your name on the grapevine
is easy and free!
If you do not intend to stay and live
in the country for very long, it’s often easy to get
work without a visa. Many developing countries are more
relaxed about work regulations than places like Britain
and North America. If you plan to stay longer, it might
be possible for the company to sponsor you to work for them
legally and obtain a work visa in this manner. However you
decide to take the route of finding work on the spot, it’s
a worthwhile experience that takes you a step away being
a traveler and a million miles away from being a tourist.
And the best part of it all is that there are no www’s
or dot.com’s required!
Nye has traveled and worked extensively
all over the world, working in organic farming,
wildlife guiding, teaching and musical performance,
as well as volunteering in various international
development projects. She has had articles and
short stories published in Amateur Photographer
(UK), and The Healing Project book series, and
recently won a Bunac Green Cheese scholarship for
humorous writing. Caroline is currently managing
a dance team in Spain.